Well, as the title of this post suggests, I am redoing my PVR. A few years ago, my son Jean-Paul and I built a computer with a TV-card in it that ran Windows 2000 and had some minimal PVR functionality. It was pretty good, but had a couple drawbacks: it was Windows, it was not easily usable, since there was no real PVR GUI, and the case was humongous. Generally, running Windows on a TV is pretty awful (unless you have Windows Media Center Edition). So, how to improve the situation? My choice was OS all the way – I decided to get a refurbished box, put a newer model TV card in it, and run Ubuntu and MythTV. I chose Ubuntu because my research suggests that its device driver support is a bit better than Knoppix (and I have zero experience with Fedora). MythTV is the defacto leader in the open source PVR field, and comes with tons of user-developed plugins for gaming, weather, themes, etc. So I figured I’d be set for a very smooth ride getting set up :-).

The first step was finding a refurbished computer. The original PVR we had was a full-tower case, with traditional beige on white colouring. Bleech. I wanted something to which I could easily make external modfications, and that would fit into a standard TV-size cabinet stand (about 100 cm across). Pleasant happenstance occured, and FactoryDirect, a popular electronics dealer here in Toronto had a sale on refurbished IBM Netvistas off lease. I got the 20 GB, 2.0 MHz box with an Nvidia video output (great for any gaming!) for a nice price, and added to the cart a cheap USB WiFi dongle (802.11G) and a PowerView TV Tuner Card (PCI). Total price < 200 $CDN. Got the stuff home, and began work. First thing, the machine came with Windows XP Home edition; useful, that meant I would be able to boot up to run Windows PC games on the PVR. Nice. I installed the WiFi card, connected to my network and was able to activate Windows without a problem. So now to the next order of business, installing Ubuntu. I downloaded the latest Live CD version of Ubuntu (6.10, Edgy Eft) from the Ubuntu download page. Since this is a bootable ISO, I burned it to CD with Nero (your software may differ), then booted up the new box with it.

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I got the familiar Ubuntu desktop, indicating that from the operating system standpoint, all was well. So shutdown, and open the case. I installed the Powerview Glaring Series PO0010 TV Tuner (these details became important later), and swapped out the CD-RW drive for an old DVD-ROM drive I had lying around. DVD capability is a must in a decent PVR. I then booted up again with the Ubuntu 6.10 CD. Once I got to the Ubuntu desktop, it was time to install.

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Clicking on the Install icon, started up the automated installation process: very easy, simply click Next to keep going.

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An important note, the partition manager allows the option of resizing my reviously formatted Windows partition and using the freed space for Ubuntu – very smooth!

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Finally, the confirmation dialog appears, where we have a last chance to cancel the process. Obviously, I didn’t do that.

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For the next couple of minutes, status messages on partitioning and copying various files were displayed, until finally I received a message that the system was rebooting, and to remove the CD from the drive. When the system started up again, I now had the familiar grub menu, from which I could choose Ubuntu or Windows.

Now that Ubuntu was installed, I needed to start the process of detecting my devices.

First off, network – I am using a NetGear WG111v2 802.11G USB WiFi adapter. So the first check is to see if Ubuntu even knows if its there. I signed in as the user created during installation, then went to the System–>Administration–>Networking menu option, and checked to see if the wireless interface was listed.

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Success! The adapter is seen by Ubuntu, all I had to do was enable it, and enter my ESSID and WEP key. Now I have net access on the box, which means I can apply any updates that get released for the applications or OS wirelessly. Additionally, all of the Internet-enabled functions of MyhTV will now be able to work, including video streaming from other computers, Weather modue access, channel and guide retrieval, etc. Since my TV room is upstairs, and the router is in the basement, this really allows me flexibility without wires.

I’ll get into the details of detecting the TV card, then installing and configuring MythTV, in my next post.

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